Turkish Scholar Visits NMU


Simten Cosar, a visiting Fulbright scholar, said one of her main goals during her month-long visit to NMU is to “answer questions about the Muslim world and Turkey that arise out of a lack of knowledge and may be contributing to prejudice.”


Cosar is a political science and international relations professor at Baskent University in Ankara, Turkey. She’s also a human rights activist with Amnesty International. Her professional work addresses women’s issues


“Turkish women have made progress, but not enough,” she said. “They have equal rights to education and political participation and an equal opportunity to fully enter into the professional sphere. But while there are no legal barriers, there are also no additional measures to ensure and encourage their participation. There’s no positive discrimination.”


Cosar said illiteracy is a major problem, despite organized public awareness campaigns that encourage families to send their girls to school.


“In rural areas especially, they are reluctant to do that, even though girls are entitled to at least a primary education. One reason is the traditional mentality in the families. Another is regional dynamics. Eastern provinces are more rural, poorer and less developed. And Turkey is caught up with the Kurdish ethnic identity issue. Until recently, that problem was reflected in armed conflicts in the region. Instability leads to a destruction of practices.”


Statistics provided by Cosar show that, as of 2000, about 37 percent of Turkish girls were enrolled in primary education and the rate of females in higher education is 30 percent. Illiteracy affects about19 percent of the population in Turkey, while the illiteracy rate among women in eastern and southeastern Anatolia is about 39 percent.


According to Cosar, misconceptions often surround the role of women in the Muslim world. She said conservative Islamic organizations in the past would not give women a say or allow them to play a role. But she said today’s organizations are very diverse; many don’t adhere to the fundamentalist ideology typically portrayed in the media.


“New Islamic organizations put women at the forefront,” she added. “Devout Muslim women are determined to ask for public visibility and activities for women like themselves.”


As a precursor to Women’s History Month, Cosar will present “The Turkish Women’s Movement” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, in the Cadillac and Nicolet Rooms of the University Center. Admission is free and a reception will follow.


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Updated: February 14, 2007

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